Thursday, June 20, 2019

Objective truth?

What do I really believe? Shouldn't I just know? No. Our mind doesn't work that way. We have tod discover our own beliefs just as e discover the beliefs of others. Often we only think we believe what are really a set of tribal  beliefs we pick up from others around us.

And then we read something that sticks in our mental esophagus and refuses to budge:
These films portray fundamental conservative values that make America great. They promote liberty, objective truth, family, patriotism, and the recognition that evil exists and must be fought.
I understand how people come to say and believe those things.  That said, I think there are mistakes in that position.

Conservatism vs liberalism

The first is that it is fundamental liberal values or, more accurately, an outgrowth of Whig values that made America great. American conservatism is a recent phenomena.

The problem is that both "liberalism" and "conservatism" are a slippery concepts. I was just reading an essay of Ronald Dworkin's from 1978 in which he discussed a new kind of liberalism that he thought was coming into being at that time. what is interesting is not what Dworkin thought was new liberalism in 1978 but what he thought was old liberalism.
Liberals were for greater economic equality, for internationalism, for freedom of speech and against censorship, for greater equality between the races and against segregation, for a sharp separation of church and state, for greater procedural protection for accused criminals, for decriminalization of 'morals' offenses, particularly drug offenses and consensual sexual offenses involving only adults, and for an aggressive use of central government power to achieve all these goals.
To which one can only say, Yikes!

It's telling, if not downright terrifying, that the word "liberty" appears nowhere in that definition. The first value Dworkin lists is "equality" and it shows up again and again in the list. That combined with "internationalism" shows just how successful efforts to quietly infiltrate and subordinate liberalism to socialist goals had been.

The next issue is that modifier "sharp". It should be enough to say, "for separation of church and state." Somewhere along the line that had become using the state to crush religion by shrinking its field of operation to something purely private.

Finally, there is the terrifying, "an aggressive use of central government power to achieve all these goals." There is nothing even vaguely liberal about that. Any real liberal would instantly recognize that as opening the door to incremental authoritarianism and loudly denounce it.

From the late 1950s, when it first came into existence, up until the 1990s, American conservatism was about opposing those pseudo-liberal developments.

"Objective truth"

This, of course, comes from Ayn Rand. It's an attempt to turn the clock back to a time before Kant. Again, it's easy to see why this notion can seem appealing but it's not an American value.

"Evil exists and must be fought"

On level, yes, this is true. But there are real problems with thinking of life as a battle between stark choices of good or evil. There are a whole lot of gradations of good and bad out there.

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